From colonialism, extraction of resources, and widespread workers' struggles, the fashion industry as it stands is in direct conflict with our planetary and ethical boundaries.
Fast fashion is cheaply made clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends. Because of this, clothes aren't made to last, and will often be worn once before ending up in landfill. This method of production and lifecycle means that the environmental cost is fairly high - an estimated 92 million tonnes of textiles waste is created each year globally - and while it's not fast fashion brands alone who are responsible for this, they play a huge part.
Making clothing on such a large scale and at such high speeds means cheap materials are used - keeping costs low for the company and for consumers - and in a world where poverty is at a high, many people rely on inexpensive clothing. But this low cost comes at a price. Fast fashion clothing is made with planned obsolescence, meaning that it is designed to be damaged or ruined easily, contributing to its low-wear, throwaway nature. The average garment is worn only an estimated ten times before disposal, and half of fast fashion produced is disposed of in under a year. SO by its very design, fast fashion is already proving to be damaging and unsustainable.
At Birdsong, all our clothing is made to order, meaning that we reduce waste from the very beginning of production. We also aim to use any offcuts that we have, keeping the disposal of fabrics to a minimum. Clothing is also made in London, reducing carbon emissions in transportation too.
Fast fashion brands are also known for their poor working conditions and poor treatment of workers too. In 2020 it was found that workers in Leicester were being paid £3.50 an hour, that’s less than half of the UK minimum wage. The blame for this mistreatment was passed around, so no one was ever held accountable. Boohoo Group have since published a list of their factories in a ‘bid for transparency’ - which, although could make a difference within the UK, their global workers rights are still virtually non-existent.
In 2015, a documentary called 'The True Cost’ was released which explored production methods of fast fashion within developing countries. The film is a harsh insight into the ways in which these brands operate, and shows just how awful working conditions are for low wage workers making clothing in sweatshops across the world. The film also shows the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory, which was structurally unsafe and led to the deaths of 1,134 garment workers who had been forced into these completely unsafe conditions.
As a social enterprise, we strive to be as ethical as is humanly possible. We pay all our staff a living wage, and work to ensure that our garment workers are working in great conditions. Because of this, in 2021 we won the Marie Claire sustainability award for most Ethical brand. You can read more about our ethical and sustainable practice here.
While fast fashion may be accessible and affordable, it really does come at a cost. We all have a duty to the world to be more environmentally conscious, and reducing the amount we are spending on fast fashion really could make a difference.